Essex County College — Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit

Category: Cases, Free Speech
Schools: Essex County College

On July 13, 2017, FIRE requested information under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act about the questionable termination of Lisa Durden, an adjunct professor at Essex County College, two days after her June 6 appearance on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” On the program, Durden debated Carlson on whether it was appropriate for a Black Lives Matter group to hold an event and request that white people not attend. Although Durden’s position at Essex was never mentioned during the show, Essex’s president issued a June 23 statement about her firing, saying the college was “immediately inundated with feedback … expressing frustration, concern and even fear” about the professor’s views, and asserting the “right to select employees who represent the institution appropriately.”

For more than a month, Essex ignored FIRE’s request for records — as well as a subsequent request — about Durden’s firing and the “feedback” the college allegedly received. After getting a letter from FIRE Director of Litigation Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, Essex finally responded, asking for the first of five eventual requests for extensions of time to respond. As of November 3, Essex said it “anticipated” being able to provide a response by November 20. FIRE hasn’t heard from Essex since.

On January 3, 2018 — 174 days after our first request — FIRE filed a lawsuit to force to Essex to comply with its obligations under New Jersey public records law and respond to our requests. FIRE is represented by Bruce Rosen of McCusker, Anselmi, Rosen & Carvelli, P.C., and FIRE attorney Brynne S. Madway.

There is currently no media coverage for this case.
  • Professor fired for defending Black Lives Matter on Fox News files lawsuit

    April 10, 2018

    Lisa Durden, the former adjunct professor at New Jersey’s Essex County College who was fired following a testy ppearance on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, filed a lawsuit against the school yesterday in New Jersey state court. Durden’s lawsuit follows FIRE’s own lawsuit against the college, which revealed that there were no records to evidence the college’s claims of having been “immediately inundated” with complaints. Last summer, Durden appeared on Carlson’s show to discuss whether it was appropriate for a Black Lives Matter group in New York City to hold an event that excluded white people. Durden’s relationship with Essex was never […]

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  • Lisa Durden: All about her famous Fox News interview and its fallout (VIDEO)

    February 8, 2018

    If you saw the testy exchange between professor and media commentator Lisa Durden and Fox News host Tucker Carlson back in June, you surely haven’t forgotten it. New Jersey’s Essex County College fired Durden from her adjunct professorship last summer after the heated segment in which Durden (in)famously “Boo-hoo-hoo[ed]” Carlson when he complained about white people being excluded from a Black Lives Matter Memorial Day event. Now, in her signature, uncensored way, Durden tells FIRE how she weathered the fallout on and off campus, stood up to internet trolls, and emerged with a “renewed sense of freedom” as an educator. […]

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  • Essex County College tells The Intercept its termination of Lisa Durden is being mischaracterized

    January 26, 2018

    Last summer, Essex County College terminated one of its adjunct faculty members, Lisa Durden, after she appeared on Fox News to debate Tucker Carlson about a Black Lives Matter event. Essex’s president claimed that the college had been “immediately inundated with feedback from students, faculty and prospective students and their families expressing frustration, concern and even fear” about “the views expressed by a College employee,” burdening administrators with the “responsibility to investigate those concerns.” Earlier this week, FIRE published the records we obtained through a public records request — records obtained only after we sued the college for ignoring our […]

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  • After FIRE lawsuit, Essex County College finally turns over documents about firing of Black Lives Matter advocate

    January 23, 2018

    Essex County College — after six months of stonewalling that ended only after FIRE filed a lawsuit against the college — has finally produced records concerning its termination of an adjunct professor who debated a Black Lives Matter event on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program. Those records contradict the claim by Essex’s president, Anthony Munroe, that the college was forced to investigate professor Lisa Durden after being “immediately inundated” with “feedback from students, faculty and prospective students” who expressed “fear” about Durden.   A college ‘immediately inundated’ with messages of anger and fear? On June 6, 2017, Lisa Durden appeared […]

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  • FIRE sues college for ignoring records requests about its firing of Black Lives Matter advocate

    January 4, 2018

    Saying it was “inundated” with complaints, New Jersey’s Essex County College terminated an adjunct professor after she defended a Black Lives Matter event in a segment on Fox News. After 174 days and five extensions of its deadline, Essex has failed to produce a single record in response to FIRE’s public records request for information about the professor’s firing. NEWARK, N.J., Jan. 4, 2018 — The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education filed a lawsuit yesterday in the Superior Court of New Jersey against Essex County College for ignoring multiple open records requests in violation of state law. FIRE requested information […]

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  • Essex County College wrongly fires professor over controversial TV spot

    July 11, 2017

    A recent nationwide outbreak of faculty censorship has left adjunct faculty members — who lack the formal protections of tenure — particularly vulnerable when publicly expressing their views on contemporary political issues. In a particularly notable instance, Newark, New Jersey’s Essex County College has been embroiled since early June in a controversy over its treatment of Lisa Durden, a political commentator and adjunct professor in the English department. On June 6, Durden appeared as a guest on a segment of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News. Durden appeared on the segment in her personal capacity as a political commentator. She […]

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